July 24, 2003



More concerns at WYSO

The budget news from WYSO remains troubling.

While the station managed to significantly reduce its midyear deficit of almost a quarter of a million dollars with a successful spring fundraiser, it still projected a year-end deficit of almost $100,000. WYSO General Manager Steve Spencer blames the shortfall on the economy, an excuse which seems reasonable until you find that at several other area stations, a rise in listener contributions kept those stations in the black. But listener contributions at WYSO fell far short of expectations.

Perhaps it’s time for Spencer to rethink his “my way or the highway” approach to programming and public relations.

But more troubling than the current shortfall is Spencer’s proposed budget for 2003–2004. Rather than plan cautiously for hard economic times, Spencer instead fattens up his budget, adding almost $50,000 to the 2002–2003 level of expenses which he fell $100,000 short of paying for to begin with. To support his high-end syndicated programming tastes, Spencer asserts that the station will raise $200,000 more in 2003–2004 than in 2002–2003, regardless of that faltering economy.


To their credit, the WYSO Resource Board, which has often seemed to be run by Spencer rather than running him, seems to be trying, finally, to rein Spencer in. Resource Board President Randy Daniel stated that the board will keep monthly tabs on the budget and has asked Spencer to produce a “contingency budget” in case his projections don’t pan out. The Resource Board needs to keep a close eye on the numbers.

But the Resource Board also needs to take a long look at itself. Criticized by former board members for an atmosphere of secrecy and good-old-boy insularity, the board seemed to be moving in the right direction last fall when it opened its meetings to the public (but only after learning that it had to do so in order for the station to receive Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds).

But the board’s actions this year disappoint. Required by CPR to post meeting times and places at least 24 hours in advance, the board has cancelled some meetings at the last minute, posted inaccurate information on its Web site, given the run-around to those who wish to attend, and tended toward short public meetings and long executive sessions.

In short, the board acts like a public board that doesn’t really much like the public.

But WYSO needs the public. The Resource Board, Spencer, and station overseer Glenn Watts of Antioch University have consistently underestimated the support behind Keep WYSO Local, dismissing its members as a few crazies. They are not. They are mainly people of many talents and resources with a long, passionate involvement with the station. It’s time for station management and the Resource Board to embrace everyone who cares about WYSO. The station needs all the help it can get.

—Diane Chiddister